Driver ratings: Hong Kong

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Hong Kong’s first Formula E race was certainly a memorable one. It was a frenetic affair, packed with surprises, yet the result itself was somewhat familiar: Sebastien Buemi first, Lucas di Grassi second. But how did the rest of the field fare?

As part of a new feature for Current E, I’ll be analysing each driver’s performance over every race weekend before settling on a rating out of 10. By the end of the season, we will have an average rating for every driver. We’ll announce our “Driver of the year” after the final race.

To get us started, here are my ratings for Hong Kong. 

Sam Bird, DS Virgin Racing: 8/10

Bird hardly put a foot wrong in Hong Kong, yet left the weekend without a point to his name. The DS Virgin Racing driver finished inside the top six through practice, lined up on the second row of the grid and ran second early on in the race. He took the lead when Piquet had to avoid an incident and even managed to extend his first stint (with the team asking him to “box this lap”). A software issue in his second car ruined his getaway from the car swap and put paid to a probable podium finish. Nevertheless, a strong weekend to start the season.

Jose Maria Lopez, DS Virgin Racing: 6/10

So much promise, only to end in retirement. A couple of spins in practice were perhaps expected as Lopez made his street track debut in a Formula E car; P3 in qualifying was much more of a surprise. A poor start left him scrambling around at the bottom-end of the top 10. A reported suspension failure, possibly the result of contact on the first lap, sent him into the wall at T4. Piquet ruined his own race avoiding the stranded Virgin car. A solid showing all the same.

Nelson Piquet, NextEV NIO: 6/10

Piquet’s weekend was a weird one. The Brazilian crashed out of FP2 and finished no higher than 15th in practice. Then he landed pole, his first in Formula E. An aggressive start allowed him to retain the lead but the lack of efficiency of the NextEV, the unfortunate Lopez incident and a disastrous pit strategy left him out of the points.

Oliver Turvey, NextEV NIO: 6/10

A topsy-Turvey weekend. He had a quiet practice, stopping twice on track with a problem, then stuck his car second on the grid before haemorrhaging positions through the race. A P8 finish was fairly representative of where the team stands.

Stephane Sarrazin, Venturi: 5/10

Given Venturi’s problems over preseason testing, Sarrazin’s weekend was fairly standard. Moderate practice pace led into a disappointing qualifying that saw him line up P15 on the grid, the slowest driver in the first group. A long first stint in the race paid off in the closing stages as Sarrazin rose up the order, battling with Piquet and Maro Engel. Despite running ahead of Engel at one point, he slipped behind his teammate late on, finishing P10.

Maro Engel, Venturi: 7/10

As rookie weekends go, Engel’s was quietly impressive. Sticking the Venturi 12th in qualifying and finishing six-tenths of a second faster than the vastly experienced Sarrazin was a bold statement, as was a good start to move into the top 10. A poorly-timed pit stop cost Engel time, coming in too soon after the safety car, but the German was then able to fight up to ninth at the flag. A good start to his Formula E career.

Loic Duval, Faraday Future Dragon Racing: 5/10

A mixed weekend for Duval. A crash in FP2 preceded a run to eighth in qualifying, and he looked set for points after swapping cars before a mechanical issue forced him into a second pit stop, leaving him 14th at the flag. Not much to write home about.

Jerome d’Ambrosio, Faraday Future Dragon Racing: 6/10

D’Ambrosio failed to light up the timesheets in practice and then appeared to hit trouble in qualifying, finishing a lowly 18th as the slowest driver who completed a flying lap. The Belgian made good progress in the early part of the race to run P14 before mirroring Sebastien Buemi’s strategy, vaulting him up to sixth after the car swaps. D’Ambrosio couldn’t keep the Andrettis back, but P7 after such a miserable qualifying was a gallant result.

Nico Prost, Renault e.dams: 6/10

Prost lacked the edge of Buemi in the sister Renault e.dams, enduring a disappointing qualifying to line up 10th on the grid. A nightmare start saw him fall back to P14 before fighting back up the order and then hitting the jackpot with his pit stop to sit P4 once the cycle had completed, which is where he finished. A nice recovery but he was overshadowed by his team mate and the double teams’ title winners could really expect their second driver to be finishing in the podium places more often than not. 

Sebastien Buemi, Renault e.dams: 8/10

The Swiss driver proved why he is the defending champion with a solid drive, making a good start to sit third early on from starting P5 on the grid and then nailing his pit strategy, coming in under the safety car to ensure he led. Bird may have been quicker in the closing stages had he not struck trouble and we were deprived of another epic battle between the two thanks to the Virgin car issue. This turned out to be Buemi’s race once again, which is a recurring Formula E theme. Classy work, losing a couple of marks for poor qualifying (by his standards).

Lucas di Grassi, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport: 9/10

A weekend of ups and downs with a familiar finish. The Brazilian finished top in FP1, then crashed out of qualifying at the altered chicane before getting hit at the start of the race, forcing him to pit under the meatball flag. A new front wing was attached, allowing di Grassi to make his second stop as planned just before the safety car. Some canny energy saving allowed him to run second with equal power to Buemi late on but he couldn’t catch the reigning champ. Still, P19 on the grid to second at the flag with two pit stops is still remarkable and just what we’ve come to expect from di Grassi.

Daniel Abt, ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport: 6/10

Hard to judge Abt’s weekend. What we saw in practice was promising, finishing third in FP1 and then qualifying seventh, to ensure that ABT had at least one man towards the sharp end. However, contact at T2 left him with a broken rear wing, forcing him to make an early swap to the second car before retiring with 11 laps to run.

Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing: 7/10

Rosenqvist gets our nod for the top rookie of the weekend. The super Swede stuck his Mahindra sixth on the grid where he remained through the early part of the race before spinning off when trying to catch team mate Nick Heidfeld. The damage to his car forced him to make an early swap, ending his hope of a top-10 finish, but he did cook up the fastest lap of the race. His speed is without question but he’ll have to learn to temper his racing to suit the car, conditions and unforgiving nature of Formula E tracks to score better points in future.

Nick Heidfeld, Mahindra Racing: 8/10

Heidfeld squeezed every last drop out of the Mahindra car in the race. The German started P11 before making a rocket start to run fifth through the early part of the race. He then perfected his strategy along with Buemi and co to sit third, before controlling his pace to the chequered flag to show his young team mate how to combine patience and speed.

Mitch Evans, Panasonic Jaguar Racing: 5/10

Evans struggled through practice, meaning he could only qualify P16, but a good start saw him get up to P11 early on. Had Jaguar not tried to go long with the first stint, he could have had a sniff at points. In the end, it mattered little as an electrical issue on his second car forced him to retire. Not a bad personal performance but we did expect more from Jag’s first outing.

Adam Carroll, Panasonic Jaguar Racing: 5/10

Carroll led Jaguar’s charge in qualifying, finishing P14, only for a grid penalty for speeding under a red flag in practice to drop him to P17 for the start of the race. Carroll mirrored Evans’ strategy but failed to get close to his team mate, ultimately finishing in P12, 12 seconds off points. 

Jean-Eric Vergne, Techeetah: 6/10

JEV’s another drive which is difficult to mark. The Frenchman made good on Techeetah’s preseason pace by setting the fastest time in practice and the quickest first sector of anyone in qualifying before being forced to abandon his lap due to a red flag. In the end, he only qualified ninth in the Renault-powered car but made a good start to run P8. A loss of power on his first car forced him into an early stop, while radio problems hampered the remainder of his race before retiring. Lots more to come from this team and driver but the record books won’t be kind to this team debut.

Ma Qinghua, Techeetah: 4/10

Lacked the pace of Vergne all day long, finishing a second slower in qualifying and starting P16. His race ended after one lap due to contact, running into the back of the car in front before then being smacked from behind by di Grassi. One to forget.

Robin Frijns, MS Amlin Andretti: 8/10

The Flying Dutchman at it again. It looked like Frijns would not race at all when he crashed out of qualifying at the chicane, damaging the tub of his car. A herculean effort from the Andretti crew to rebuild the car (who get a 10/10 from us) meant he could start the race, getting his second car ready four minutes before it was required. A long first stint allowed him to charge in the closing stages and pass a handful of cars, eventually crossing the line P6. 

Antonio Felix da Costa, MS Amlin Andretti: 8/10

Frijns and Felix da Costa are so perfect as team mates, we’ve even give them the same mark. AFdC qualified down in P13 but rose up the order in the early stages before going long on his first stint. A reserve of energy meant he could push late on, picking off the likes of d’Ambrosio and Turvey with aplomb. P5 was a richly deserved result for the Portuguese driver on a big day for Andretti.

That’s it for Hong Kong. Agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments section below or on social media. 

Luke Smith

2 Comments

  • Brian Duddy says:

    I feel you’re being a bit unfair to Piquet. He saved energy well enough compared to the cars behind him, and if he had pit under the safety car (instead of doing the worst possible thing by following it in) could very well have won. Perhaps he could have made a few more positions at the end, but it was hardly his fault that he was 40s behind the entire field…

  • Alex says:

    Ma Qinghua: if this performance is at 4/10, then what should a driver do for 1/10? 🙂
    Slow man, was totally worse than his teammate, smashed a fellow competitor…
    Anyway, your rating is far away from any objective one, since my favorite Juan Pablo Montoya is missed and doesn’t have 11/10. Even if he still not in FE… 🙂 🙂

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